Range and Habitat in Illinois
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
Brazil (South America)
Canada (North America)
Chile (South America)
Costa Rica (Mesoamerica)
United States (North America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
- Forzza, R. C. & et al. 2010. 2010 Lista de espécies Flora do Brasil. http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/2010/. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/100002289
- Voss, E. G. 1985. Michigan Flora. Part II Dicots (Saururaceae-Cornaceae). Bull. Cranbrook Inst. Sci. 59. xix + 724. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1700
- Gleason, H. A. 1968. The Choripetalous Dicotyledoneae. vol. 2. 655 pp. In H. A. Gleason Ill. Fl. N. U.S. (ed. 3). New York Botanical Garden, New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1704
- Marticorena, C. & M. Quezada. 1985. Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Chile. Gayana, Bot. 42: 1–157. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1592
- Radford, A. E., H. E. Ahles & C. R. Bell. 1968. Man. Vasc. Fl. Carolinas i–lxi, 1–1183. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/636
- Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston. 1970. Man. Vasc. Pl. Texas i–xv, 1–1881. The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1493
- Small, J. K. 1933. Man. S.E. Fl. i–xxii, 1–1554. Published by the Author, New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1515
- Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Fl. Great Plains i–vii, 1–1392. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/637
- Munz, P. A. & D. D. Keck. 1959. Cal. Fl. 1–1681. University of California Press, Berkeley. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1717
- Munz, P. A. 1974. Fl. S. Calif. 1–1086. University of California Press, Berkeley. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1719
- Baker, R. & W. C. Burger. 1983. Family 70. Caryophyllaceae. In: W. Burger (ed.), Flora Costaricensis. Fieldiana, Bot., n.s. 13: 227–247. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/2447
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Habitat & Distribution
Flower-Visiting Insects of Soapwort in Illinois
(Butterflies suck nectar; one observation is from Grundel & Pavlovic as indicated below, otherwise the observations are from Robertson)
Lycaenidae: Lycaeides melissa samuelis (GP); Papilionidae: Papilio troilus; Pieridae: Pontia protodice
Alternaria dematiaceous anamorph of Alternaria saponariae causes spots on live leaf of Saponaria officinalis
In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / pathogen
embedded sorus of Microbotryum saponariae infects and damages live anther of Saponaria officinalis
Foodplant / saprobe
scattered or in short rows, pycnidium of Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Phomopsis intermedia is saprobic on dead, locally bleached stem of Saponaria officinalis
Remarks: season: 3-4
Foodplant / spot causer
crowded, mostly epiphyllous, fuscous pycnidium of Septoria coelomycetous anamorph of Septoria saponariae causes spots on live leaf of Saponaria officinalis
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Saponaria officinalis
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 18
Species With Barcodes: 1
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Saponaria officinalis is a common perennial plant from the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). This plant has many common names, including common soapwort, bouncing-bet, crow soap, wild sweet William, and soapweed. There are about 20 species of soapworts altogether.
The scientific name Saponaria is derived from the Latin sapo (stem sapon-) meaning "soap," which, like its common name, refers to its utility in cleaning. From this same Latin word is derived the name of the toxic substance saponin, contained in the roots at levels up to 20 percent when the plant is flowering (Indian soapnuts contain only 15 percent). It produces a lather when in contact with water. The epithet officinalis indicates its medicinal functions.
The plants possesses leafy, unbranched stems (often tinged with red). It grows in patches, attaining a height of 70 cm. The broad, lanceolate, sessile leaves are opposite and between 4 and 12 cm long. Its sweetly scented flowers are radially symmetrical and pink, or sometimes white. Each of the five flat petals have two small scales in the throat of the corolla. They are about 2.5 cm wide. They are arranged in dense, terminal clusters on the main stem and its branches. The long tubular calyx has five pointed red teeth.
The individual flowers open in the evening, and stay open for about three days. They produce a stronger scent at night and supplement nectar production during the night. The flowers are protandrous: on the second night of blooming, the pollen is released, and the stigma develops to its final position by the third night. Much of the seed production comes from self-pollination. The flowers are visited by various insects including Noctuidae, Sphingidae, bumblebees, and hoverflies.
As its common name implies, it can be used as a very gentle soap, usually in dilute solution. It has historically been used to clean delicate or unique textiles; it has been hypothesized that the plant was used to treat the Shroud of Turin.
A lathery liquid that has the ability to dissolve fats or grease can be procured by boiling the leaves or roots in water. Take a large handful of leaves, bruise and chop them and boil for 30 minutes in 1 pint/600ml of water; strain off the liquid and use this as you would washing-up liquid.
In the Romanian village of Sieu-Odorhei, natives call the plant "Sǎpunele". It is traditionally used by the villagers as a soap replacement for dry skin.
Despite its toxic potential, Saponaria officinalis finds culinary use as an emulsifier in the commercial preparation of tahini halva, and in brewing to create beer with a good "head". In India, the rhizome is used as a galactagogue.
In the Middle East, the root is often used as an additive in the process of making the popular sweet, halvah. The plant is called ‘erq al halaweh in Arabic, çöven in Turkish, and is utilized to stabilize the oils in the mixture or to create a distinctive texture of halvah.
S. officinalis contains the flavone saponarin.
|Wikiversity has bloom time data for Saponaria officinalis on the Bloom Clock|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saponaria officinalis.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Saponaria officinalis|
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species".
- "Royal Horticultural Society Plant Selector".
- "USDA GRIN Taxonomy".
- Paul Slichter. "The Pink Family in the Columbia River Gorge: Caryophyllaceae".
- Farmakognosia, by Raimo Hiltunen (in finnish)
- Wolff, D.; Witt, T.; Jurgens, A.; Gottsberger, G. (2006). "Nectar dynamics and reproductive success in Saponaria officinalis (Caryophyllaceae) in southern Germany". Flora. Morphologie, Geobotanik, Oekophysiologie 201 (5): 353–364.
- Shroud of Turin. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2012-06-03.
- Mabey, Richard; 'Plants with a Purpose: A guide to the everyday use of wild plants', William Collins, Fontana, Glasgow, 1977
- Alice Arndt (10 August 1999). Seasoning Savvy: How to Cook With Herbs, Spices, and Other Flavorings. Psychology Press. pp. 215–. ISBN 978-1-56022-031-2. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Purple Sage page on Soapwort. Purplesage.org.uk (2012-04-01). Retrieved on 2012-06-03.
In former times, the leaves of this species were gathered and either soaked or boiled in water, the resulting liquid being used for washing as a liquid soap. Because of its saponin content, the species can be poisonous upon ingestion, in much the same manner as Agrostemma githago.